The park doesn't just consist of red rocks. There are plenty of native plants, bushes and trees to provide shade from the sun. As far back as the late 1800's, folks toured the park in their buggies. And as cameras became more popular and cheaper, they took photos, too. One of the more interesting spots folks visited and still do is Balanced Rock. The name speaks for itself; a large boulder precariously situated on a thin base. Years ago, from fear the rock would topple and roll downhill, the base was filled with cement, though an exact date of when this was done is unknown.
Steamboat Rock is right next to Balanced Rock. A road separates the two. The top of Steamboat resembles a ship deck. Early on, people were allowed to climb to the top of Steamboat. (With the road, people walking by and snapping pictures or enjoying the view, folks aren't allowed to climb to the top any longer.) Steamboat is also unique with the story behind it. It's said that back in the day, the owner of the land encompassing Steamboat and Balanced rock had a son who charged a fee to take photos of the tourists. Once the camera became popular, folks stopped paying the fee. The owner, Goerke, built a tall, wooden fence and charged a 25 cent admission fee so folks could continue to admire and photograph the rocks. People complained and Goerke soon found himself in a dispute with the city of Manitou Springs over who owned the road rights to the rocks. Goerke lost the initial battle but later won in appeals court. Afterward, it's said that he granted a public right-of-way to the city of Manitou Springs when he was in the process of divorcing his wife so she couldn't claim the property.
Today the park is open year-round and receives thousands of guests. A newly built visitor's center showcases a small theatre where one can learn how the rocks were formed billions of years ago, a gift shop and an eatery. At the south end of the park is garden of the Gods Trading Post--a must stop place for those who love all things western and Native American. One of the oldest trading posts in the west, I speak from experience when I say they have the most beautiful pottery.
Deer are abundant in the park, as are picnic areas and breathtaking views of Pikes Peak, downtown Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain. And best of all, it is still free to the public.